An Athletic Take on Luxury | 2014 Cadillac ATS

December 2013/January 2014 View more


Photos courtesy of © Copyright General Motors

If you were to ask an automotive engineer (or, say, a fervent reader of car magazines) to list the attributes of a really great sports sedan, you might get something that looks an awful lot like the 2014 Cadillac ATS’s specifications sheet.
The ATS boasts rear- or all-wheel drive, a 50/50 weight distribution, a light curb weight, a five-link rear suspension, and Brembo front brakes. Some models can even be delivered with a six-speed manual transmission.

It is probably no coincidence, given this description, that the ATS is within an inch or two of the BMW 3-Series sedans in just about every measure, from its length and width to its rear-seat legroom. When Cadillac introduced the ATS as an all-new model last year, the company definitely declared its intention to compete in this segment.

N2013_12_01_004ROADThe ATS is definitely a competitor. Where it really shines is in its handling, from the weight of its steering to its solid and settled feel over any type of road condition. Sharp curves, especially, are cause for delight—invitations to the driver to dip deeply into the car’s cornering capability. On calmer drives, that same suspension serves up a seriously refined ride.
Buyers can choose how much power they want with their handling. The ATS can be outfitted with three engines, spanning a fairly wide range of performance. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 202 horsepower and is available only with rear-wheel drive. The two upgraded engines, which are available with rear- or all-wheel drive, are a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder with 272 horsepower, and a 3.6-liter V6 which churns out 321 horsepower.

The turbocharged engine will be the sweet spot for many buyers. Significantly stronger than the base engine, it dances well with the ATS’s standard six-speed automatic. It moves the car smartly and with confidence. Though drivers who like to be first away from every stoplight might prefer the larger V6.

N2013_12_01_005ROADThe beauty of a car’s interior design is certainly subjective, but the ATS hits the high notes on many measures. This is a sharp car, with a sleekly modern dashboard and console, comfortable leather-wrapped seats, and artfully designed trim. The artful design is echoed across the ATS’s exterior. Unlike some smaller cars that wear the lines of their larger relations like an ill-fitting suit, the ATS looks chiseled and crisp. The LED-accented headlights and grille, especially, give the ATS its presence.

With three engines, two drivetrains, and multiple trim package options, the 2014 Cadillac ATS is hard to pin down in terms of pricing. Window stickers start at $33,900 for the rear-wheel drive, 2.5-liter model with an automatic transmission and standard trim; base pricing peaks at $49,120 for a V6 rear-wheel-drive model with premium trim. A six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option, but only on cars with the turbocharged engine in the middle of the pack.

Among the ATS’s options are the alphabet soup of safety technologies that first appeared on only the most expensive luxury cars and are now, thankfully, trickling down to more affordable models. These include a blind zone detector and various permutations of braking and cruise control that are aided and abetted by a panoply of cameras and sensors. One option that buyers should try before they buy is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) audio system—a nice concept that can be frustrating in everyday use.

It is worth noting that none of the ATS’s engines require premium gas—a definite plus, even with the car’s reasonably strong fuel economy figures around 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.